Statement in Response to Terner Center Proposal

Friday, June 1, 2018

Movements for renter power are gaining strength. Even just a few years ago discussion of any type of rent regulation was a non-starter. Now, new rent control laws are passing and a measure is headed to the ballot to repeal Costa Hawkins, the industry created state law that severely limits local rent control.

Nonetheless, this week the Terner Center for Housing & Innovation published “Finding Common Ground on Rent Control,” in an attempt to float a compromise with this growing movement. Terner has proposed an “alternative” to rent control: a statewide cap on rent-gouging. In “exchange” it is suggested that tenant advocates no longer pursue the repeal of the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which restricts rent control. There are a many issues with this, including:


  1. Repealing the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which would end state preemption of local tenant protections, should not be conflated with pro-actively passing tenant protections like rent control.

  2. With the repeal of Costa-Hawkins, cities would simply be allowed to choose what kind of rent control they wish. Even before Costa-Hawkins, strict rent control was rare in California.

  3. Rent stabilization in California is a moderate policy that works with the existing private housing market. Every rent stabilization ordinance passed since the 1970s has been an effort at “finding common ground” with diverse stakeholders at the local level.

  4. The Stanford study referenced is flawed.

  5. The Terner Center is vague as to how its proposals interact with other existing or pending state or local laws. It does not clearly outline a feasible plan for a statewide rent cap that would not undermine local tenant protections.


We are perplexed why the Terner Center decided to issue an unsolicited “compromise” to avoid a showdown on Costa-Hawkins at this moment when several local rent control campaigns and a statewide Costa Hawkins repeal effort are underway. Why does the Terner Center not want voters to decide on Costa-Hawkins’ fate?

Rather than rewarding the California Apartment Association’s obstructionist tactics on rent control and Costa Hawkins with talk of imaginary “compromises,” Tenants Together will continue building a diverse movement of people who care about their neighbors and win real protections for California’s 17 million tenants.


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